Sous vide steak in a beer cooler

Sous vide steak in a beer cooler

Last week I analyzed some of my favorite activities. They include: watching basketball, playing basketball, watching movies, hanging out with Steph, forcing her to watch NBA Playoffs with me, and lounging around like an amoeba. Oh, and eating. Everything else in life is ancillary and quite useless, like this blog here. It’s a wonder that I would take the time to try sous vide steak in a beer cooler. This method was taken from Kenji Lopez-Alt at this post on Serious Eats. This method of cooking steak is fun to try because it’s fairly inexpensive, and it’s very hands-off. As you saw previously, most of my favorite activities involve not moving too much, so this was perfect.

First, you get some ziploc bags and a thermometer ($10). Thermometer might seem a bit random in a home kitchen, although if you like to fry shit, it’s almost a necessity. The bags on the other hand, have many uses in your kitchen so you might already have some on hand.

Next, get a cheap cooler. This is useful later on if you wanna lounge around on a beach. Despite my affinity for lounging around, doing it under the hot sun generally hasn’t been a favorite activity of mine. But now that I have a cooler, I might do it this summer. Bring my cooler, stuff it full of ice and Zima, and act cool as fucking shit.

Right, so also buy some steaks. These were one inch thick, or they were supposed to be. Fresh Direct said they were so I trust them somewhat even though they deliver shitty things occasionally. Actually had these puppies in the freezer, but you’ll want to thaw your meat, then bring it out to room temperature and salt it, then leave it there for forty minutes or more. I think the idea is that water gets drawn out by the salt, but then get reabsorbed. Osmosis or some shit like that. Basically Kenji said in another recipe on SE that you should do that. I barely graduated college so I don’t know how that works. But salt it and let it sit, it will taste less bland aka, better.

OK, so now your steaks are all up with their daily needed sodium content, you put it in a bag. Then you want to close the bag 90% of the way, and then slowly drop the bag into a ginormous bowl of water (preferably not scalding hot or super cold). This will push air out of the bag and give you a ghetto effect of vacuum seal. Just before the bag is completely submerged in water, you close the rest of the bag. It looks like what you got above. In sous vide cooking, you want your meat to be in contact with the plastic and that to be in contact with water, so this step is important.

The next part is easy, you turn your faucet up to hot water and fetch some 130 F degree water and pour it into the cooler. Cool huh, your faucet water can cook your dinner. Then you put your bagged meat in there and put something on top of them so they don’t float to the top. Now, the steaks will cool down the water somewhat, so you want to be sure there’s a lot of water in your cooloer. Don’t just use barely enough water to cover the meat. I’d suggest you use almost as much water as the cooler can hold.

130F is the magical temperature that’ll kill off most bacteria, but your cooler is not completely perfect – the water will drop in temperature as time goes on. To counter act that, you could check on your water periodically and add hotter water to raise the temperature up to 130. OR, do it the lazy man way and use like 135 F to 138 F degree water and not worry if that puppy drops a few degrees. You only want to put the meat in the cooler for 40 minutes to an hour anyway so the temp won’t drop too much.

When you take the meat out, it looks funny. That’s ok.

The last part is easy. It’s just like regular cooking. Fire up a pan so it gets super hot, and then add some oil. Olive oil smokes a ton so maybe not that if you live in a tiny NY apartment. Sear both sides so they get nice and brown and tasty. When I first started watching Food Network, Emeril was busy lying to motherfuckers like me about how searing locked in juices. Then Alton Brown came along and showed it locked in zero juices. Then it was vogue to say you caramelize the outside. But now the hot shit is to say you want to create the Maillard reaction. Basically you wanna do this for flavor. Don’t do it too much otherwise you might overcook your meat.

Oh, and when you’re done cooking, just let that meat rest. There’s a reason for doing this but I don’t know what it is. It helps though.

Cut it open! See, it looks good. The ratio of medium-rare meat to completely cooked meat on the outside is small. Hurray for cooking at home! I didn’t fuck it up! I actually didn’t get a crusty outside because I took it off the heat too fast. For the most part, I think sous vide cooking is cool. That machine on the market now is around $500, which means too damn expensive. For now, beer cooler and steak is working for me. It also works for eggs, but with eggs you have to use warmer water. Now I’m going to go watch more basketball. If CP3 can break Kobe’s ankle one more time, my life will be completely. Go Hornets.

Posted by Danny on April 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

(I invite you to follow me on Twitter so you can get more updates.)